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Strengthening Nuclear and Radiological Leadership for Safety


Junior and mid-career professionals learn about safety leadership skills through group exercises at an IAEA training course held in Athens, Greece. (Photo: R. Pacheco/IAEA)

Leadership for safety in nuclear and radiological environments, ensuring high levels of nuclear safety and radiation protection and that a healthy culture for safety is established throughout organisations, were among the main topics discussed at the recently held IAEA International School on Nuclear and Radiological Leadership for Safety, in Athens, Greece.

Through case studies and leadership games, participants analysed scenarios, such as unintended medical exposure, leaks of radioactive material and challenges establishing an effective regulatory body. An interactive programme also helped them to identify gaps and ways that could help an organization improve its nuclear safety processes and mechanisms. The school included lectures and gave insights and references for leadership models, attributes and the role of culture on leadership behaviours — all of this with the perspective of its influence in nuclear and radiological safety.

“The goal of this programme is to enable current leaders and future ones in the nuclear field to have a better and insightful understanding on their role in having a robust safety culture at nuclear facilities around the world,” said Shahid Mallick, Director of the IAEA Office of Safety and Security Coordination.  “The high demand in the school’s attendance since its inception from across the world is a reflection of the need for such support.”

Over a two-week period, 24 early to mid-career professionals from 13 countries received theoretical and practical information on how to build and work on having leadership skills in nuclear and radiological safety throughout their careers. This course is based on the IAEA safety standards, in particular, the General Safety Requirements Leadership and Management for Safety (No. GSR Part 2) and was hosted by the Greek Atomic Agency Commission (EEAE) and supported by the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme.

Topics discussed covered an array of areas in nuclear and radiological safety ranging from internal communication and a systemic approach to safety and human factors to integrated management systems in radiation safety. One type of session held throughout the week, a “reflective team” session, involved experts sharing real-life stories that impacted them as safety leaders. Among the experiences shared was one in which an inspection was carried out by a junior inspector and due to restrictions being imposed by the operator on internal access to a nuclear power plant control room to avoid a more closer look at the safety parameter display system, the inspector refused to carry out the full inspection until there was complete clearance from the country’s regulatory authority to continue the inspections without any interruptions to check the plant’s safety. Through this session, participants gained skills on how to be better prepare in the event they had to face a similar or related situation.  “Real experiences are powerful drivers that the school utilizes in its methods,” said Mallick.

Additionally, the school underlined the concept of strength in depth, which is reflected in the International Nuclear Safety Group No. 27 publication and the need for a robust nuclear safety system to ensure safety standards are applied in all circumstances. A robust nuclear safety system includes a strong industry sub-system, a strong regulatory sub-system and a strong stakeholder sub-system along with a healthy system of interactions between them including peer reviews and the support of a questioning attitude.

Meet the participants

Here’s what three of the school participants had to say:

Szymon Kawa

Szymon Kawa, a nuclear regulatory inspector at the Polish National Atomic Energy Agency: “The teaching methodology was very interactive and interesting. I have obtained useful skills that I think will help me make better decisions for safety in the future.”

Agnese Aizpuriete

Agnese Aizpuriete, head of a team of four at the Radiation Safety Centre of State Environmental Service of Latvia: “Many of the learnings apply not only to radiation safety but to other situations at my work as well. I have realised that I not only wish to be a manager, but also a leader, a difference I now better understand.”

Inga Puodziukiene

Inga Puodziukiene, a senior engineer at the Licencing Support Group of the Projects Management at the State Enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant in Lithuania: “In this school, I appreciated that we are not only listeners but also actors. We are all taken into account. Reinforced by these teachings, I will always think twice about the implications for safety in my job and before making a decision that might impact nuclear safety.”      


Attendees came from Albania, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

The IAEA school, launched in 2016, continues supporting Member States in fostering a culture for safety and developing leadership skills to ensure the safe use of nuclear and radiological applications. The school was kicked off with a pilot programme held in France in 2017 and was soon after extended to Mexico and India in 2018 followed by courses in Turkey, Pakistan, Brazil and Morocco in 2019 and Japan in 2020. A virtual version of the school was piloted this year in June, supported by a sound e-learning programme. Since the pilot programme was conducted, more than 250 junior and midcareer professionals from all regions of the world have participated in this school.

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